Conservatives should avoid media-only moderated debates

It’s just like Lucy with the football.

Every election conservative candidates cannot resist rushing into debates solely moderated by the mainstream media, only to have the football yanked away at the last moment, sending them hurling into the air like Charlie Brown and tumbling onto their thick, block heads.

Not that Donald Trump is a conservative, but this year he happens to be playing one on television – yanked football and all.

He clearly lost the first presidential debate to Hillary Clinton, at least when one scores it like those held in the past: rambling is bad, focusing is good, and for heaven’s sake, don’t waste seven precious minutes explaining to 84 million people why you thought the president was born in Kenya.

It might not matter, though. Trump’s erratic performances during the primary debates didn’t hurt, and nothing happened last Monday to sway most undecided voters either way.

What was clear, at least to conservatives, is that our candidates should finally stop participating in debates that are solely moderated by the mainstream media. Despite honest attempts, it always ends up being two against one.

Take Lester Holt. He’s a likable guy and a decent journalist, but he didn’t ask Clinton a single question about her immigration stance, her foundation, Benghazi, the email scandal, or her record as a senator or Secretary of State.

Instead, Holt seemed to hammer Trump alone, inquiring about everything from his tax returns to what he said about Clinton’s “look” – as if we really needed to listen to such nonsense when our country is facing so many challenges.

Holt certainly asked Trump about his record, though, and then even asked Clinton what she thought about his record. For a journalist, he seemed strangely uninterested in anything Clinton may have said or done.

And that’s the real problem: some journalists who moderate debates often fail to focus on what actual voters want to know about the candidates. It’s not that they’re purposely bias – most are simply trying to gather and report the news as best they can. It’s that reporters apply their narrow newsroom-guided judgment to determine questions and follow-ups.

Benghazi? We covered that, so it’s old news.

Emails? Everyone already knows that the FBI said it was a non-issue.

Clinton Foundation? It may look bad, but we cannot ask about mere allegations.

Clinton’s record in the Senate and at the State Department? Well, there’s not much interesting there to ask about.

Another problem is how big city newsrooms are dominated by liberal groupthink. For instance, they all may believe it’s perfectly ordinary for a candidate to support gun control, but they find it fascinating when one says the Second Amendment is actually about protecting ourselves from a tyrannical government. There are usually not enough conservatives around to balance the newsroom’s collective perspective, so guess who gets ask what question, and how.

This also manifests itself locally. During a debate between Republican candidates seeking the Birmingham area’s congressional seat a couple of years ago, a television reporter wasted everyone’s time by asking about global warming … in one of the most conservative districts in the nation. Republican primary voters didn’t want to hear about that. They wanted to know how those candidates would get the government off their backs.

Back when Bob Riley was first running for governor, a newspaper reporter asked him during a statewide television debate about his “F” rating from a major environmental activist organization. When Riley responded that it was just some liberal group, the reporter “fact checked” him by saying it was actually bipartisan.

Fact is, that organization is completely left-wing (they even deducted a letter grade if candidates were prolife because they believe it’s anti-population control). They only placed some retired Republican moderate on their board of trustees to claim the phony “bipartisan” mantle. It was just enough to have those “bad grades” credibly hurled at Republican candidates for years.

Having journalists on a panel of questioners is fine, but they should be balanced with respected political thinkers from both sides. Only then will conservatives get a fair shake during debates.

Otherwise, when Lucy holds the football during the next election, our party should just go play baseball instead.